The latest update begins with the September 26 Update
I pulled cards from trail cameras for the first time since horns dropped on 5/11/11 on my Oklahoma deer hunting lease. Aside from several photos of different bucks in velvet, I noticed that the big 8 we call the Viking has been making regular appearances on the camera. At least I am pretty sure it is him. In about another month, I should know for certain (UPDATE: It is certainly him). But right now, he's way ahead
of all the other bucks in terms of antler growth, so I am pretty sure it's him. If not, it's going to be a big buck that will be fun to track anyway!
Reviewing all of the photos gave me the idea to do a 'start to finish' journal of his velvet development. He seems to be making fairly regular appearances unlike previous years, so I'm hoping he'll keep this up through the summer months. I'll use this journal entry to add updates to his growth and we can all follow along to see if he turns into a 150+ giant Oklahoma 8 point this season, or if he adds additional points. A few years ago as a 3 or 4 year old, he had a drop, so I'm wondering if he'll ever add it again. I'm going to try and put all of the best photos I get of the Viking within the words of this journal.
Keep in mind from the previous journal entry of this year's shed
, he measured approximately 149 gross inches last season. We figured him to be at least 4, possibly 5 last year. So this could be year 5 or 6, his peak antler growing age.
We are feeding a specially formulated version of creep feed with high protein content and some vitamins and minerals specially blended for deer, not cattle. So it's encouraging to see the bucks hitting the feed so hard.
You can click on the photos within the word space of this journal and they will take you to an archive site where you can click them again to zoom closer, if you would like. Here's the start of the 2011 antler growing season for the deer I assume to be the Viking.
I was pretty sure initially that this was the Viking by the thickness of his new pedicles as well as the good body structure he carried compared to the other deer.
By April 9, he had added some good length to his bases and simply by the mass they carried, I was becoming pretty sure it was the Viking.
By April 26, he was beginning his splits at the brow tine level. Mass still looks great!
The length he put on in a little over a month is pretty impressive.
His mass looks to be staying true to last year's marks. And in this photo below taken May 6, he looks like his spread is going to be pretty good.
As of May 9, it looks like he's beginning to form his G2s and make the turn for his main beams.
In a couple of weeks, I will go pull the cards again and I will update this journal again with more photos of his growth in the next 2 weeks, provided he keeps coming to the feeders.
Here is a look at the Viking side by side by side from May 27 of 2010, to hard horns in October 3, 2010, to May 31, 2011:
I made it back to pull camera cards yesterday, 5/25/11. The Viking has been continuing his appearances and his growth.
He has one buck that he hangs out with. This buck almost always precedes the Viking into the feed zone. When I recognize him, I know the Viking is soon to come. This second buck is a bit further along than the other bucks as well. Last year, he was a 9 point. We will see how he shapes up this season alongside the Viking:
It's very interesting to see The Viking's dominance. Without having to show any aggression or posturing, he just commands his own space. When he does come to feed while other bucks are around, the lesser bucks all seem to circle around away to the other side of whichever side of the feeder the Viking chooses. It's comical how they stand back and stare at him, almost in as much awe as I do, staring at the computer screen!
By the distinct curve of his left brow tine, curving back toward the outside, I am now certain this is the Viking.
It's looking like he will add a little more spread this season.
Again, I love the way all the lesser bucks watch to see what he'll do, then get out of his way and go opposite side when he switches around the feeder.
We left plenty of space along the bottom of our fence to allow bucks with big headgear to get under them easily.
By the 18th of May, he's really adding length. The brows look to be headed for at least 6 inches or better again.
The definitive curve of his left brow:
He does make occasional daylight appearances.
The 21st is the last photo I have of him within this group. The general number of photos started trailing off at this point, with 5000 taken from 5/11 to 5/21, then over the next four days, the photos really slow down. It could be a new availability of alternative green food sources, or the several days of stormy weather. For now, this is the last shot:
He has really continued his growing. Certainly going to be a great Oklahoma whitetail!
I'll post another update again in a few weeks.
JUNE 11 UPDATE
The Reconyx finally ran out of batteries on June 11 around 12:45 a.m. That's not a bad run from February to June.
The deer really slacked off for the last two weeks in May, but then they seemed to hit it again with a vengeance in early June. However, the Viking, although he did make appearances, is greatly reducing his frequency. He came for a few visits between May 31st and June 3rd. That was it. I am thinking it's related to the amount of food for them to eat now. Although the deer are coming to the feeder actually more often than they were, they seem to want to posture and fight more than they want to eat. They all seem to be in really good health. The Viking may just be avoiding the drama.
Regardless, he's still putting on some serious antlers. While he's maintaining his mass from last year, it appears he's adding a good amount of spread to his main beams. His G3s have now started their formation.
He really looks big in this image:
This time, he was still hanging with his bachelor buddy, but in a later set, he comes in alone.
This is the last series I have of the Viking from this trip:
I'll give them a few more weeks and go back for another update. Also be sure and check out the "lesser bucks"
journal post. There are several 3 year old bucks that look like they're going to make some good antlers. They just all seem pretty inferior when compared to this brute.
JUNE 28 UPDATE
I went back to pull the card on my Reconyx Tuesday. I discovered that the feeders were all empty. When I checked the card, the camera reported that it had 19,725 photos on it! That's a lot of pictures in 2.5 weeks. It has taken me working past midnight and all day today to get them sorted and to pull the best ones of the Viking.
The typical Oklahoma 8 point stud took a two week hiatus from the feeder, but when he came back, he hit it with a vengeance, sometimes coming as much as 3 times a day. I was blessed with some incredible pictures of this buck this time, including some daytime color photos. He has put on some serious antlers, as expected!
His first appearance on this group of pictures was June 18th.
The deer have figured out that they can pound the feeder and get the remnants to fall into the portals.
This was pretty exciting for me to get daylight color photos of this great buck. These are a rarity!
The tips of his tines are still really rounded and black. It's a long time until the hardening period, so I expect he may still add a considerable amount of length to his rack. You can click the photos for the ability to zoom in close.
He actually had another small buck try to scrap with him:
I'm sure he's thinking, "What was that runt thinking?"
It's a bummer that his left brow tine stunted its growth this year. His right brow really exploded in length!
This is the last photo I have of the Viking for this set:
JULY 7 UPDATE
After this last set of pics, I discovered the feeders were empty. It took me around a week to get the feed made and get back to the ranch. When I did so, I went ahead and pulled the card again. Turns out I got another set of the Viking on July 3. He continues to add length to his tines. He is really looking big! A very impressive Oklahoma 8 point!
I'll be headed up again perhaps late next week to check cameras again. Hopefully with the feeders fat and full again, he will be making many more appearances.
AUGUST 12 UPDATE
Well the Viking took a long sabbatical from the feeders. This caused me a considerable amount of distress, imagining all the worst possibilities, but I was also not seeing his companion, nor another nice buck I call Stubbs, so I assumed they were all just spending some time elsewhere. But this last time that I pulled cards, The Viking and his companion 9 point and even Stubbs, made appearances again.
The Viking is definitely a big Oklahoma whitetail. I am fairly sure now that this is a 6 year old deer based upon how long we have been following him. From 5 to 6, it doesn't appear that he has added that much more in antler length. Last year he poured on over 22 inches of length and this year, he's looking close to the same, perhaps a bit bigger. He definitely needs to be killed. The 2011 season has The Viking as my TOP Hit-lister! Here's a quick recap on our history with this deer.
The Viking as a presumed 3 year old in 2009, with a drop tine, in the two photos below:
During the season of 2009, I had a late December chance at the Viking and elected to let him walk. I figured him right at 125" as a 3 year old and wanted to see what he could get to.
The following season, another hunter on the lease found both of his shed antlers sticking up out of the ground as if God had dropped them down in front of him to find. It was a cool story and a great find. Here is a picture of those sheds:
In 2010, we got many more trail camera pictures of The Viking. I came as close as 60 yards to killing him during the gun season, while I was still carrying my bow. Here are some of his 2010 velvet photos:
Here are a couple of hard-horned photos from 2010:
During the 2010 season, I saw him several times, and missed my best chance in early January when a new snow hit and I was unable to hunt on one day. Trail cameras showed he had hit a feeder that I was hunting in the photo below:
I got some late winter photographs of him coming back in to the feeders to start regaining fat stores, like the photo below:
Then in the spring, the rancher found his left shed. Here are some of those shed photos:
In the photo below you can see the mass in his base and around the brow tine:
And in this photo below, you can see how massive his base was. It measured 8 inches around!
I took this shed home and carefully measured it. The antler alone measured 67 inches. Combine that with a conservative 15 inch spread and a matching side, and we get 149 inches. Definitely a big 8 point! That was an addition of 11 inches for the left side antler in one season for a possible 22 inches of new growth! The Viking had gone from a 127 inch 8 point with a drop, to a 149 inch stud!
That brings us up to date with the start of the growing season which this post has been documenting until now. So with such a history, I was very upset to go over a month with no new pictures. But this last trip, he finally returned! Below are his latest velvet photos for 2011:
The other buck coming into this photo below is the one I call Tallboy. I believe him to be The Viking's offspring. As a 3 year old buck, he reminds me of what The Viking looked like at that age. I think in another 2 or 3 years, he's going to be a great buck as well.
The buck in the background of the photo below is a respectable 9 point that looks tiny next to The Viking. The two are practically inseparable. The 9 point will typically precede The Viking by 5 minutes. In many pictures, I can see The Viking in the background, his eyes glowing, watching the 9 point to see if he gets smoked at the feeder, before The Viking will come on in.
In the photo below, The Viking and his son, Tallboy, have a face-off:
I'll be heading up later this week to check cameras again. With another 2 weeks lapsed, I hope to see more photos of this great Oklahoma buck!
September 8 Update
The Viking continues to make his appearances. However, he has grown considerably more skittish, often coming in alone now, without his partner. His pattern has entirely vanished and his appearances are random, and all in the heart of night.
Here are his latest velvet photos. He has yet to shed his velvet.
He is a magnificent Oklahoma whitetail:
September 26 Update
The Viking has finally shed his velvet. On or about the 16th of September, it began peeling off. That happened to be about the only time in a 2.5 week period that he showed up on camera. So here they are, the final pictures of The Viking in velvet in 2011:
So the velvet gloves are off! Time for the hunt!
I hope you've enjoyed this chronological journal of a 150" Oklahoma whitetail growing his antlers this season.